Biochem J 2003 Dec;376(Pt 3):725-32
Department of Biochemistry, American University of Beirut, P.O. Box 113/6044, Beirut, Lebanon.
The tumour suppressor p53 induces cell death by launching several pathways that are either dependent on or independent of gene transcription. Accumulation of the sphingolipid ceramide and reactive oxygen species are among these pathways. Crossregulation of these two pathways is possible owing to the demonstrated inhibition of neutral sphingomyelinase by glutathione, the predominant cellular antioxidant, and has been observed in some cytokine-dependent cell-death models. In a model of irradiation-induced cell death of Molt-4 leukaemia cells, it was found that ceramide accumulation and glutathione depletion were dependent on p53 up-regulation. The loss of p53 owing to expression of the papilloma virus E6 protein inhibited both pathways after irradiation. However, in this model, these two pathways appeared to be independently regulated on the basis of the following observations: (1) glutathione supplementation or depletion did not alter irradiation-induced ceramide accumulation, (2) exogenous ceramide treatment did not induce glutathione depletion, (3) glutathione depletion was dependent on new protein synthesis, whereas ceramide accumulation was independent of it and (4) caspase activation was required for ceramide accumulation but not for glutathione depletion. Furthermore, caspase 9 activation, which is dependent on the release of mitochondrial cytochrome c, was not required for ceramide accumulation. This suggested that a caspase, other than caspase 9, was necessary for ceramide accumulation. Interestingly, Bcl-2 expression inhibited these pathways, indicating a possible role for mitochondria in regulating both pathways. These findings indicate that these two pathways exhibit cross-regulation in cytokine-dependent, but not in p53-dependent, cell-death models.